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Angry Birds Maker Seeks New Profits In Movie Venture

March 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Finnish mobile games developer Rovio is pinning its hopes on a costly 3D movie project helping it return to growth after a 73 percent profit drop,the latest sign its mainstay Angry Birds brand is waning.

A decline in its business licensing the Angry Birds brand on toys, clothing and sweets is adding to the problems of Rovio, which has yet to repeat the success of its original slingshot-based game which became the No.1 paid mobile app of all time after its launch in 2009.

Rovio said total sales fell 9 percent last year to 158.3 million euros ($169 million), although revenue from mobile games grew 16 percent to 110.7 million, as new offerings such as Jolly Jam and Angry Birds Stella Pop! helped total annual downloads reach 600 million.

Operating profit slumped to 10 million euros from 36.5 million.

“It is clear that a growth company like us can’t be satisfied with a falling revenue,” Chief Executive Pekka Rantala told Reuters.

Rovio, whose long-term aim is to become an entertainment brand on a par with Walt Disney, has expanded the Angry Birds brand into a spin-off TV series and is backing an animated movie set to premiere in May 2016.

Rantala said the total production cost of the Angry Birds movie will be about $80 million, and marketing costs, which will be partly paid by Sony Entertainment’s Columbia Pictures, would total more than the production budget.

“The movie will help us get the licensing business back to growth. We are already seeing signs of pick-up in licensing business, and pretty soon we will be able to publish new major partnership deals,” he said.

Having cut the number of licensing partners to around 400, including toy maker Hasbro, the company is also striving to build new brands alongside Angry Birds to be expanded into new games, consumer products and animations, Rantala said.

Analysts have said Rovio has been slow to respond to a shift to freely available mobile games, where revenue comes from purchases inside the game, as well as advertising.


Amazon Opens Online Store On Alibaba’s Tmall

March 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc has set up shop at an online store on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s fast-growing online marketplace, as it seeks to expand in China, an Alibaba spokesman said.

Alibaba’s Tmall offers virtual storefronts and payment portals to merchants. Several western retailers, including Zara owner Inditex, Britain’s Burberry and ASOS, have joined TMall this year as they look to boost their presence in China.

Imported food, shoes, toys and kitchenware are listed on Amazon’s store, one of the many on Tmall that sell brand-name goods to Chinese shoppers, Bloomberg, which first reported the news, last week.

Amazon also operates its own e-commerce site in China.

U.S. retailer Costco Wholesale Corp last year opened an online store in China using Tmall, entering the country’s booming e-commerce market to combat slowing sales at home.

Amazon did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside usual business hours.



Angry Birds Rovio Plans To Eliminate Jobs

October 3, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Finnish mobile games developer Rovio, owner of the globally successful Angry Birds brand, said on Thursday it was planning to cut up to 130 jobs in Finland, or 16 percent of its total workforce.

“We have been building our team on assumptions of faster growth than have materialized. As a result, we announced today that we plan to simplify our organization … we also need to consider possible employee reductions,” Chief Executive Mikael Hed said in a statement.

According to Rovio, the Angry Birds game, in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal birds’ eggs, is the No. 1 paid mobile application of all time.

Rovio has expanded the brand into an animated TV series and merchandising of toys and clothing, but at the same time it has struggled to retain players, resulting to its earnings halving last year.

In August, the company named Pekka Rantala, a former Nokia executive, as its next CEO.



Amazon To Offer 3D Printing

July 29, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net Inc will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and other items from third-party vendors using a new personalization option on its website.

Most of the more than 200 items available on the company’s new 3D printed products store, which was rolled out on Monday, can be customized using a new feature that allows users to rotate and change the item they are viewing.

Before it is printed by one of Amazon’s sellers, users can customize a product like as a bobble head figure by changing its skin and eye color, hair style and outfit, Amazon said.

“The customization is something we’re keenly interested in,” said Petra Schindler-Carter, director for Amazon marketplace sales, speaking in an interview. “We’ll always look for new applications for that.”

Amazon, which has more than 240 million users, has expanded its marketplaces division to include new areas such as fine art and wine. It is part of Amazon’s larger investment into new areas like mobile services and original content that led to its larger-than-expected second-quarter loss last week.

The new printing option taps into a broader “Maker movement” among tech entrepreneurs in northern California, and to some extent Europe, that is focused on customizing 3D objects rather than development software or mobile applications.

3D printers have gained in popularity on Amazon Supply, a wholesale site for businesses. That interest led Amazon to offer customers an 3D print option, Schindler-Carter said.


Microsoft Joins The 3D Printing Frenzy, Develops App

November 18, 2013 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Jumping on the trend of using printers to churn out objects, Microsoft has created a 3D printing app for Windows 8.1, betting that this will become mainstream.

Windows 8.1 has plug-and-play support for printers and “understands” 3D file formats, and the upcoming 3D Builder app will leverage those native OS features, Microsoft said on Friday.

“Now, with the 3D Builder app, we’ve made it even easier for people to create and print objects in 3D,” wrote Microsoft official Kristina Libby in a blog post.

The app, available now for download from the Windows Store, comes with a set of predefined objects that users can modify and adjust, including toys and ornaments, the company said.

3D Builder can also be used to print out objects designed in other applications or downloaded pre-built.

“We’re entering an exciting new era in which everyone will be able to create and print three dimensional objects. Just imagine being able to print a spare part for a household appliance, or creating your own jewelry line of custom 3D-printed earrings,” Libby wrote.

3D printing vendors 3D Systems, MakerBot and TierTime will add support for Windows 8.1 in their products before the holiday shopping season, according to Microsoft.


NORAD Dumps Google, Chooses Bing To Track Santa

December 20, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

As has become the custom, on Christmas Eve, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will be tracking Santa’s progress as he and his reindeer make their way across the globe delivering presents to children. With NORAD’s help, children and their parents can watch Santa’s travels and see how close he’s gets to their house.

After working with Google for the past five years, NORAD is teaming up with rival Microsoft.

On Microsoft’s blog, the company noted that NORAD, which has been tracking Santa for the past 62 years, will be using Microsoft Windows Azure cloudcomputing platform and Bing Maps this year.

Kids also will be able to track Kris Kringle’s progress on a Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps. A NORAD tracks Santa app also is available for Apple’s iPhone and iPad and Android devices.

NORAD and Google mutually decided to part ways on this project, according to Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis, a NORAD spokesman.

Google helped us increase the program globally, and were very grateful for all the support we get from all our partners, Lewis told Computerworld. Were very happy with them& Its not a technical issue. Weve been together for four years. It was a mutually agreed upon split.”

Google did not respond to a request for comment.


Strong E-Commerce Growth Expected This Holiday Season

November 21, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

E-commerce is expected to enjoy strong growth this holiday season, spurred by early online deals, the rise of mobile devices and more free shipping offers.

Holiday sales will likely increase 16.4 percent from a year earlier, outpacing total retail sales, which are forecast to grow about 3.9 percent, according to analysts at Jefferies & Co.

Doug Anmuth, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, expects online purchases to top 10 percent of total U.S. retail spending for the first time in the fourth quarter.

“It’s still early, but our sense is that we will have a really positive holiday season,” said Joel Anderson, head of, the online business of Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world’s largest retailer.

Wal-Mart expects 600 million online visitors online during its holiday quarter, which runs from November through January. That is up 13 percent from the same period last year, according to Anderson.

“We’re still on forecasts and off to a good start,” he added.

The holiday season is crucial for retailers because that is when they make the most revenue and a big chunk of their earnings.

Thanksgiving and the days following, which include what is traditionally the busiest online shopping day, Cyber Monday, are more important this year as retailers lure consumers with earlier promotions.

“This trend could drive a disproportionately higher percent of overall holiday spending to the first half of the period,” Brian Pitz and Brian Fitzgerald, Internet analysts at Jefferies, said. “Heavy promotions would be needed later on to achieve the growth rates of last year.”

Free shipping will also be a major driver of online sales growth this holiday, according to Anmuth and others.


Facebook Gifts May Lure Users Into Exposing More Private Information

October 1, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Facebook Gifts, the new social gifting service unveiled by Facebook on Thursday, might encourage users to expose information like their home addresses, birth date, clothing or shoe size that could pose security and privacy risks, according to security experts.

Facebook used to have a Gift Shop application that allowed users to send virtual gifts in the form of images, but it was discontinued in August 2010. The revamped Facebook Gifts feature is the result of Facebook’s May acquisition of mobile e-commerce app Karma and allows users to send physical gifts to their friends.

Facebook has partnered with many vendors in order to offer a large selection of gifts that includes stuffed animals, cupcakes, toys, coffee mugs, Starbucks gift cards and more. The company receives a percentage of every gift purchase.

Facebook Gifts will be rolled out gradually to users starting with those in the U.S, the company said. Users will have the option to send gifts from the birthday reminder panel on their news feeds or by clicking on a gift icon in a friend’s timeline. The payment can be made before or after the intended recipient has accepted the gift.

The launch of the new Facebook Gifts service is good news for Facebook investors because it will provide the company with a new revenue stream and the feature might even prove popular with users in the long run. However, some security experts are concerned about its security and privacy implications.

“The amount of private data users are sharing on social networking sites already exceeds all security precautions,” said Bogdan Botezatu, a senior e-threat analyst at antivirus vendor Bitdefender, via email Friday. “Making it so much easier for the user to add a number of addresses they can receive parcels at (including probably work or school addresses) would make it even easier for real-life criminals to gather information about a potential victim.”


Toys R Us Sued Over Kid’s Tablet

September 25, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

The maker of the Nabi tablet computer for children has filed a lawsuit against Toys R Us Inc on Monday, saying the world’s largest toy retailer stole trade secrets in preparing to introduce the rival Tabeo tablet this month.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in San Diego, California, seeks to stop Toys R Us from selling Tabeo ahead of the all-important holiday season. Nabi creator Fuhu Inc contends that Toys R Us agreed to become the exclusive seller of the Nabi last year to learn product secrets before bringing Tabeo to market.

The introduction of Tabeo heated up the market for tablets designed specifically for children, which also includes players like LeapFrog Enterprises Inc’s LeapPad.

Fuhu accused Toys R Us of fraud, breach of contract, unfair competition and trade secret misappropriation. Fuhu also said that Toys R Us copied Nabi’s butterfly-shaped bumper,which is used to help protect the tablet, for Tabeo.

According to the lawsuit, Toys R Us agreed in October 2011 to become the exclusive Nabi distributor, but in the end did “virtually no promotion” and only ordered for the holiday season a little more than what Toys R Us said could be sold in one day.

The companies ended their exclusive agreement in January.

Fuhu said in the lawsuit that the reason for Toys R Us’s behavior did not become clear until it introduced Tabeo this month.

“Toys R Us used Fuhu’s trade secrets and confidential information to start selling Tabeo, which systematically attempts to replicate the Nabi experience, far earlier than Toys r Us could have done otherwise, if at all,” the lawsuit said.

Aside from the order to stop selling Tabeo, Fuhu is asking that any Tabeos be turned over to Fuhu. It is also seeking unspecified monetary damages.


Amazon To Jump Into The Original TV Programming Arena

May 3, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics Inc reveal it’s new efforts to develop original comedy and children’s TV shows to be distributed over the company’s content streaming service.

The move is part of a broader push by Amazon to produce its own content, including video and e-books, to sell to its millions of consumers over the Internet.

The world’s largest Internet retailer said people will be able to submit ideas for television series to the website of its Amazon Studios unit. Amazon said it will option one new project per month and add it to a development slate where it will be tested for viability with an audience.

Amazon has been spending heavily in recent quarters to add movies and TV shows to its video streaming business, increasing competition with Netflix Inc.

However, both companies are also working on producing their own content from scratch to reduce reliance on big movie studios and TV production companies, which want to be paid well for their work.

Amazon Studios, which was launched in November 2010, accepts movie scripts and asks customers to review the ideas online, using the feedback to choose which project should go ahead.

The unit has received more than 700 test movies and 7,000 scripts so far, and 15 movie projects are under development.

The new focus on TV shows broadens this effort. Amazon said on Wednesday that the TV series project is led by Joe Lewis, previously with 20th Century Fox and Comedy Central, and Tara Sorensen, who came from National Geographic Kids.

Within 45 days of getting pilot TV scripts, Amazon said it will either extend an option on the project for $10,000 or ask the creator to put the idea on the Amazon Studios website.

If the company decides to distribute a full-budget series, the creator will get $55,000 and up to 5 percent of Amazon’s net receipts from toy and T-shirt licensing, and other royalties and bonuses, the company said.


Was Rovio A Takeover Target?

April 19, 2012 by Michael  
Filed under Gaming

Word on the street is that Angry Birds developer Rovio has apparently turned down a takeover offer. The offer was rumoured to have been worth $2 billion. (Yes, that is billion with a “B.”)

While sources are sketchy on some of the particulars, word is that Zynga is the one who made the offer. Whispers followed by rumors last year were rampant that Rovio was a target for takeover, and a number of firms were trying to get a deal done. Until now, no specifics had materialized.

As to why they didn’t accept the merger offer, only Rovio knows, and it is likely that we will never know all of the sordid details. A source we spoke with claims that Rovio is simply not interested in being acquired. This source speculates that “…they are doing so well and enjoying so much success that it just does not seem the right move to be acquired.”

Despite the fact that the latest Angry Birds release has already racked up over 10 million downloads in just three days does seem to indicate that they don’t need to be acquired. Still, our source expects others to continue to try to persuade Rovio that a takeover would be the best way to go for the long term.




Angry Birds Swooping Into Walmart

March 21, 2012 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

The maker of the wildly popular mobile game Angry Birds has signed a deal with Wal-Mart to embed clues to a new version of the game in merchandise sold in Wal-Mart stores, hoping to drive Angry Birds fans into the stores, and shoppers to the game.

The world’s biggest retailer will stock limited-edition T-shirts, soft toys and snacks containing clues that unlock bonus levels of Angry Birds Space, which will be available in app stores from Thursday.

Rovio, the Finnish start-up behind the world’s most downloaded mobile game, has ambitions to become a global entertainment brand. Its marketing chief told Reuters on Tuesday it was teaming up with a major U.S. retailer.

The company’s value has been estimated at $9 billion, little more than two years after it first launched Angry Birds for the iPhone. The game has been downloaded more than 700 million times, and is the fastest-growing game on Facebook.

“Only Wal-Mart can deliver the reach across America for this type of program and we wish our fans luck as they seek out our hidden clues,” Rovio’s marketing chief, Peter Vesterbacka, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Wal-Mart said: “This is just one of many exciting partnerships Wal-Mart is forging to give our customers access to exclusive content.”

Angry Birds players will also be able to get clues from Wal-Mart’s Facebook page, where it has 13 million fans.

Rovio already has a similar agreement with bookseller Barnes & Noble, in whose stores it has dedicated areas where shoppers can buy Angry Birds merchandise and earn game credits.

With more than 3,000 stores, the Wal-Mart deal will be bigger.

Hasbro Plans To Sue Asus

December 22, 2011 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Asus is being sued by Hasbro over the Transformer Prime because of its name.

The toymaking company has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles asking for an injunction banning the device as well as payment of damages. Hasbro markets the Transformer action toys, one of which is called Optimus Prime. It claims that Asus is violating its trademark.

Hasbro told Paid Content, “Hasbro continues to aggressively protect its brands and products and the specific actions we are taking today against Asus underscores yet again Hasbro’s willingness to pursue companies who misappropriate our intellectual property for their own financial gain.”

The Transformer Prime is a follow-up device to the Transformer, which Asus launched in May. Hasbro never bothered to take any action over that tablet so we’re surprised that it has taken it this long.

There’s a chance that Hasbro will lose the lawsuit because the products are so different and therefore it’s hard for a consumer to get confused between them.

The Transformer Prime isn’t available in the UK yet. If Asus is forced to withdraw the device from the market this will no doubt disappoint large numbers of customers who have pre-ordered the tablet or are planning to splash out on one next year.




Angry Birds Reaches 500M Downloads

November 2, 2011 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mobile gaming company Rovio announced on Wednesday its hit game Angry Birds had reached a record 500 million downloads in less than two years since its launch.

It’s more than any game ever before,” Rovio’s marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka said at a conference in Helsinki.

Unlike most mobile-game crazes, Angry Birds — in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds’ eggs — has remained at the top of the charts since it was launched for Apple’s iPhone on Dec 11, 2009.

Vesterbacka said the company’s next goal is to reach one billion fans globally, on devices including mobile phones and computers.

The gaming firm is expanding the brand across traditional merchandising, to items such as toys and baby products, and is taking the birds to the big screen with film studios.

Earlier this year, Rovio raised $42 million from venture capital firms in an investment co-led by Accel Partners, which previously backed Facebook and Baidu, and Skype founder Niklas Zennstroem’s venture capital firm Atomico Ventures.

Rovio was founded in 2003 after three students including Niklas Hed — CEO Mikael Hed’s cousin and now Rovio’s COO — won a game-development competition sponsored by Nokia Oyj and Hewlett-Packard CO. It changed its name from Relude in 2005.